From my book, Cinderella Tales From Around the World:
The story of King Leir and his daughter Cordelia found in Geoffrey of Monmouth's Historia Regum Britanniae (History of the Kings of Britain), circa 1136, is one of the earliest recorded versions of a Cinderella variant in the British Isles. A translation of Monmouth is available in this collection.That date, if you accept Cordelia as a Cinderella, makes the tale one of the earliest European versions, predating the ones I have discussed over the last several days from other countries. It is interesting to me just how popular the 510B Cinderellas are in the U.K. with many variants recorded during the 19th century. From 1136 to 1606 to the 19th century, that is a long-lived tale. Yes, Shakespeare helped it along, but it appears to have had a pretty good life of its own through the many variants although we can only speculate.
The story served as inspiration for William Shakespeare’s play, King Lear, written around 1603-1606. The story is an ATU 510B and ATU 923 Love Like Salt variant. Although Shakespeare’s play is not included in this anthology, prose retellings of the play are offered instead.
Perhaps thanks to the antiquity of the King Lear story and the Shakespearean influence, the tales of Cap o’ Rushes and Catskin, both ATU 510B, are popular tales in the British Isles with numerous variants recorded.
And while we are here today with early English Cinderellas, I can also highly recommend The Adventure of English on DVD. I watched the first few episodes of this one night, begging my family's indulgence, while I was working on Cinderella, coincidentally while I was working on the English versions of the tale. Geoffrey of Monmouth appears in the history and it was fascinating to watch along with everything else. There isn't a folklore slant to the series, but it fits so well with much of my reading and research that my brain went several directions. Language, particularly English, is just so fascinating and this well done series sells it as such. And my family, groaning when we started it, was all still awake a few hours later and we had a lively discussion of what we had seen. I took courses on the topic in college but this was an interesting refresher with new material well presented to me, too. Loved it actually! I had purchased it on whim during a sale and don't regret the purchase at all.